Ted's Hiking World Lake Sylvia, Lyons Creek Trail
Desolation Wilderness

June 18, 2007

Ascending the north side of American River Canyon on Wrights Lake Road is a real pleasure.  This is one of the few remaining old-time routes that haven't been "modernized" — lanes, steep, hugging a cliff-side, no guard rails, underbrush overgrowing the pavement's edge, signs discouraging trailers and RVs.  Such byways are wonderful to find; but in this case the fun lasts for just a few miles.

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Wrights Road

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Getting started

Contrary to descriptions in certain other hiking guides, this is not a streamside stroll.  Lyons Creek rarely is in view and sometimes it cannot even be heard.  In contrast, this trail also is touted as a great wildflower walk, and the flora are indeed out in substantial numbers.  Today, the meadows are chock-full of five spots among the elephant ears.

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A patch of Five Spots

A semi-erect post marks the spur trail to Bloodsucker Lake, where you can meet the resident leeches first-hand, I am told.  All one has to do is to jump into the water!  A bit farther on, a small detour from the trail provides the only worthwhile view of the creek this side of the Lake Sylvia junction.

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Lyons Creek

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Paintbrush, with beetle

Lyons Lake reputedly has a more spectacular setting; but this easternmost route was selected today for its proximity to the crest of the Crystal Range, which I have not previously enjoyed from this direction.

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Lake Sylvia

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Behind the lake

A nearby creek noisily winds its way down from far above.  I cannot help myself; I must explore it!

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Starting up the creek

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It just gets better

Leaving the lake area, I follow the creek up through the open meadow.  Scrambling amidst the cascades is exhilarating, and addictive.

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Heidi, where are you?

Although I know that two other little lakes with spectacular settings are lurking about 400 feet above me, it seems prudent to stop here.  There had been no plan to walk this far.  Assuming that I can make it back to the trailhead unaided, this already is shaping up as my longest day-hike since a 16-mile conquest of Half Dome in 1961.

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The end of my loop.  Peak 8662 overlooks Lake Sylvia

While attempting a shortcut to the Lyons Lake trail, I am forced to negotiate this obstacle instead.  A lower route would have kept me in the grassy area below the talus jumble.

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Not the best choice of routes

My beloved phlox didn't show themselves until I had crossed the wilderness boundary, but they are plentiful enough above that point.

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Phlox garden

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Pyramid Peak, 9957*, the highest point in Desolation Wilderness

The return walk is an unavoidable formality.  It is 80°, I am facing the late-afternoon sun and running low on water, and my feet are somewhat sore.  I find myself walking ever faster so as to reach the car as quickly as possible, finishing the last mile in under fifteen minutes.  But there always is time for another photograph.

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Nearing the end of the line


§: This has been a very nice day.  Once again, it appears that the crowds haven't yet discovered the season.  Surely most of the creeks will be dry before they arrive, as stream flow is but a fraction of what it was last year.  Meanwhile, I continue to have these special places pretty much to myself, and that is perfectly fine.

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